June 29, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: To your health, sort of
By Jeff Rapsis

How time flies! My old man, a Nashua boy himself, would have turned 90 this past week—that is, if he was still around to blow out the candles.

I'm only 42, practically a spring chicken in comparison. So it's kind of surprising to realize that my dad was that much older than I am right now when he and my mother started having kids.

My wife and I are childless, unless you count two canine dependents. But I think of dear old Dad, and realize there's hope for me yet, provided I ditch the current spouse and hook up with some lucky trophy wife.

Ouch! Hey, put that rolling pin down! Ouch!

Ah, but I never feel as old as when I encounter today's healthcare system. Not because I'm in really bad shape, but because I'm old enough to recall the last gasps of a wholly different era.

Maybe if I do have kids someday, I can regale them with tales of life in Nashua way back in the 1960s, when family doctors still made housecalls, carrying big black bags filled with things like stethoscopes and vials of colorful pills.

I was reminded of this by the recent and untimely death of Dr. Everett Tuttle, who was our family's physician for many years. He was a great guy and his recent sudden death was a great loss to the community.

Back when we were growing up, if one of us got sick, Dr. Tuttle would stop by our house on Amherst Street on the way to or from his office. While we lolled on the living room couch, he'd take our temperatures, put a stick in our mouths, and generally reassure my mother that we weren't headed for the Farwell Funeral Home.

Imagine that! When you look at how health care is delivered today, it almost seems like a dream—that a doctor would come by for a personal visit, say comforting things to your housebound parent, and even give you a little bottle of pills to "cure" you, even if they were probably just candy.

But Dr. Tuttle wasn't unusual. Before him, we had another physician, Dr. Spring, an older gentleman who not only made housecalls but had an honest-to-God doctor's office on Main Street with a tiled floor and a scale and a nurse dressed in white.

My father died when we kids were very young, so my mother probably called on the doctor for advice a little too often. I remember once, my older brother was drinking from a glass when it shattered in his hands.

My poor alarmed mother immediately phoned Dr. Spring at home, asking him what she should do.

"Is he bleeding or hurt?" the doctor asked.

"No," replied my mother.

Thus the prescription: "Then get him another glass."

Dr. Spring is long gone, and now Dr. Tuttle has joined him. And I look over this column, which was intended to be about healthcare, and I see it's threaded through with death, death, death, including probably my own, after the wisecrack about the trophy wife.

So, on a more optimistic note, I'm pleased to report that the very first physician with whom I ever had any contact—my mother's obstetrician, Dr. Charles Goyette—is still going strong, hale and hearty in his 80s. In fact, I had lunch with him and his wife, the lovely Meri Goyette, just a couple of months ago.

Was lunch good? To die for!

Ouch! Put the rolling pin down! Ouch!.


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